Rail Services (Portsmouth Harbour)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 11th November 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Independent, Portsmouth South 4:26 pm, 11th November 2014

I congratulate my constituency neighbour Caroline Dinenage on her determination in getting this Adjournment debate. I welcome what she says. She has been consistent in putting her point of view in the House and in the media generally.

I must say that Portsmouth Harbour station has varied very little in the 60 years since I mudlarked underneath it as a kid. My goodness me, that station needs something done to it.

We have to look very carefully at train operators’ responsibilities to their passengers. As has rightly been said, this is a boom time for the railways. More people than ever are using our railways, and we should appreciate and be thankful for the fact that people take it seriously as a mode of transport. The last national census showed that close to 3,500 people a day commute by rail from the city of Portsmouth to different locations, but mostly to London.

From talking regularly to those commuters, I know the problems that they experience. There is sometimes a 20-minute delay while their train is held outside Waterloo station—they can see this House from their train window—perhaps to wait for other trains to go in, which makes them late for work. No sensible reason is ever given to passengers about why they have to sit on the train outside Waterloo for that length of time, and it causes them great problems in getting to work on time.

The poor state of the rolling stock has been talked about for at least two generations. I remember debates when I was first elected to the House 30 years ago in which we complained about the state of the rolling stock on the railway line from our city to other parts of the country. Something really needs to be done. The disabled and anybody with any back injury or back pain finds such a journey absolutely intolerable. That is why some of them have exercised their right to start reusing their car, which is the very thing we do not want.

We must understand that the general make-up of the railways since privatisation has in some instances been good for the country, but certainly when it comes to south of London, we are sadly denied the benefits that others receive. The hon. Lady was right to highlight the fact that commuters in the south will subsidise other parts of the network to the tune of £1.5 billion over the lifetime of the franchise, which cannot be right. As she rightly said, some of that money should be retained to improve the situation in our city.

I received a reply as recently as 4 November from the managing director of South West Trains to a letter about the appalling state of the trains and their lack of cleanliness. Constituents consistently write to me and speak to me about the untidiness of the trains. The reply from the managing director does not address that situation in any way. A constituent wrote to me as recently as yesterday, knowing that this debate was going to take place. I will quote directly:

“The stations in Portsmouth really do need improving. At night, they are poorly lit which is a matter of concern as they are used by children getting home from school in Portsmouth in winter.”

My constituent states that young kids frequently use the railways to go out in other parts of the area, and that:

“Poor lighting and limited staff means the risk of untoward incidents is high.”

I hope the Minister will ensure that in the conversations that the Department has with the rail operators, it brings home to them the need to tackle the issues that have been raised. I hope that Ministers will read carefully the Hansard report of this debate and take back to the rail operators the genuine reasons for concern that have been raised. The railways are booming but, sadly, many of the stations and much of the rolling stock are busted. That just is not good enough for the people whom the hon. Member for Gosport and I represent. They deserve better and they need to see better delivery of the service that they pay an awful lot of money to use.